A fishy debate centered around Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ proposed musky regulation changes ensued at September’s Natural Resources Commission meeting.
Of most concern to anglers was the DNR’s proposed catch and immediate release of musky year round on Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River. Anglers from the Michigan-Ontario Muskie Club, Lake St. Clair charter captains, and the Michigan Muskie Alliance argued that the proposed regulation changes would devastate the world-class fishery that they worked so hard to rehabilitate.
Most anglers cited spawning season as a time of crucial concern for the fish. They speculated that because these fish “pile” up and become easy to locate in the spring, anglers would take advantage of that and target them at “their most vulnerable stage.”
Almost all of the organizations that opposed the regulation changes conceded that there wasn’t much empirical data to support whether catch and release fishing of musky during their spawning stage would affect their ability to survive and reproduce — however, most of the anglers also noted that there is no data to support that it wouldn’t.
MUCC’s policy supports catch and release “non-possession” seasons where they will not harm resources and will add recreational use. A caveat to this is not to allow catch and release seasons to supplant sustainable harvest opportunities for those wishing to do so. MUCCs members have been interested in supporting opportunities to spear for musky through the ice as well which we will continue to discuss with the DNR over the next year.
Other proposed musky regulation changes included higher minimum size limits for musky in many lakes throughout the state, implementation of a harvest reporting requirement to replace the harvest tag requirement and the addition of a catch and immediate release (CIR) season year round to waters open to fishing. With a harvest limit of one per angler per year at the minimum size limit for the given body of water, MUCC feels current regulations are very protective of the fishery and adding in a required registration of harvest adds an additional layer of information for our biologists.
All of the proposed musky regulation changes are detailed in two memos discussed at the September 14 NRC meeting, which can be found on the DNR’s website —
Proposed Statewide Changes: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/FO215.18_Statewide_Bass_Walleye_Perch_etc._INFO_598184_7.pdf
Proposed Special Regulations for Minimum Size Limit:
The organizations and their representatives that opposed the opening of Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River to CIR were generally in favor of all of the DNR’s other proposed regulation changes as they applied to musky.
Nick Popoff, DNR Fisheries Division, also presented the department’s proposal to add the Pere Marquette, Little Manistee, White, Muskegon and Pentwater rivers to its list of streams where treble hooks are prohibited from August 1 to November 15, except when used on artificial lures.
Popoff said the specific language in the order will define what constitutes an artificial lure. This order has been passed on other rivers (Manistee and Betsie rivers) in an attempt to stop people from snagging spawning salmon.
Proposed Special Hook Fishing Regulations:
All the proposed changes were presented to the commission for information only. They will be presented again at their October meeting in Alpena for action by the commission.
In other news at the September NRC meeting, Michigan United Conservation Clubs Deputy Director Amy Trotter briefly explained the grassroots policy process the organization utilizes and presented to the commission most of the resolutions that passed by membership vote at the 2017 Annual Convention.
DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason noted that in 2018, Michigan will be celebrating its 100th year of elk hunting.